Sunday, September 7, 2014
The new school year started with a day of teacher in-service. A guest motivational speaker included in his message the concept of choosing a specific “word for the year.” His thinking was simple enough. If we could choose a word that represents an area of our life that we would like to improve, and if we focused on that word on a daily basis, the word would become part of our lives. It would seep into our existence and change us. He challenged us to choose a word and commit to allowing it to impact our lives. As a teacher, words like patience, relationships, serve, or optimism might have been good words for me, for instance.
The language arts department at my school, of which I’m a member, decided to challenge our students to choose a word for the year, and the activity worked well. I’ve decided to challenge you too. Let me give you some examples first. Maybe your word could be goal or dream. Are you good at setting goals and plotting out a plan for success? Is there something you’d like to accomplish, but you just can’t seem to push yourself to do it? Maybe if you chose goal or dream as your word and meditated on it each day, you’d be able to accomplish something meaningful in your life.
Maybe your word could be moment. Do you find it difficult to not dwell on the past or worry about the future? Is it possible that if you try to focus on the moment—the only time you actually have some control over—that you might be more productive, happier, more content, or healthier?
Maybe your word could be grow. Maybe you could strive daily to learn from your experiences. Maybe you could try to see the good in things or try to use your circumstances as an opportunity to help others. We should learn from our mistakes and see the good that may come from our trials. Maybe if we looked at things as life lessons, we could be more content with our lives.
Maybe your word could be give or help. How much better would the world be if we were able to put ourselves second and think about others first? What if we decided to be a servant and actually look for opportunities to give of ourselves—our time…our resources…our love? Isn’t it possible that we could have an impact on others? Isn’t it possible that our impact on others would make our own lives more fulfilling?
Maybe your word could be positive or optimistic. What a change this word could make. If we could show more optimism, I think we’d have less stress in our lives. I think we’d be more at peace, and we’d sleep better at night. I think we’d find good things to cheer us and say good things to cheer others. I think we’d like more people and be better liked. We’d be a better friend, we’d feel better, and getting up in the morning would be easier. We’d react better to the troubles in our lives and we’d be happier.
What if our word was smile? Do you think that maybe we’d get more smiles in return? Do you think that maybe we’d be more relaxed, more joyful, and more likable? Do you think we’d make better first impressions and be better counselors? Do you think we might notice the beauty in things and see the good in others if we smiled more?
Maybe your word, like mine, could be prayer. I considered so many words, but in the end, I realized that for this year I might be able to accomplish more if I just took a minute to settle myself and consider what is important. I can pray for help to be more joyful and smile more. I can pray to be more optimistic and less stressed. I can pray for opportunities to help and serve others. I can pray to grow from my experiences and learn from them and be more content. I can pray to live in the moment and stop rehashing the past or worrying about the future. I can pray for help in achieving certain goals or accomplishing my dreams. I figured that maybe if I took a moment to stop myself each morning, I might have more peace and joy and love in my life. I might remember to be thankful for all the blessings I have, and I might be able to step out of my own selfish world and consider how as a teacher, I can have a positive impact on the lives of other people.
So what will be your word for the year? What do you need to do better? How can you improve yourself and have a better year? I challenge you to pick a word for the year and consider it daily. Take note of the changes, benefits, and impact the word is having on your life. I think it’s a challenge worth taking. Maybe you can share your word as a comment…and maybe you can share your word and a similar challenge to others in your life. You know, everyone wants to change…just very few are willing to take the steps necessary to actually create the change. That is my challenge to you. Pick a word, and tomorrow, begin making the changes.
Saturday, July 26, 2014
As an author, do you purchase copies of your own books to sell in public? You should. When I sold a paperback copy of one of my novels on Amazon, I received slightly more than a dollar in royalties once I shared with my publisher...or less than three dollars now that I’m on my own (self-published). I got 84 cents for an ebook when sharing with my publisher, and depending on the price I list it for now, I get from 35 cents to about two dollars per book on my own. I sell my own books in public for $10.00, which is two or three dollars off the listed Amazon price, and I make over $5.00 a book. I know there are starving artists out there who don’t think they can afford to buy copies of their books to sell, but I don’t think you can afford not to—because they’re easy to sell. That’s what you’re worried about, isn’t it? That you’ll have boxes of unsold books stored away, and instead of making money from your books, you’ll be losing it instead. If that’s how you’re feeling, then you don’t have a plan. Before I give you some ideas, do you realize that if you bought 20 books to sell, costing approximately $100.00, you could sell them for $200.00 at a reasonable price of $10.00 per book? Then you could buy 20 more books and never have to worry about losing money again. Once you realize how easy it is to sell them, you can buy larger quantities and enjoy the profits.
So how do you sell them? Here are some suggestions.
1. Call local libraries and ask if they have any events. These are usually free, and though I haven’t had large numbers of sales while selling at these events (which aren’t generally attended well), I’ve heard they’ve worked better for other people…and maybe the library will purchase your book.
2. Call local bookstores and see if they will let you set up shop. Sometimes there are town festivals or art walks or other such events running, and the bookstore will invite you in to sell. Possibly, the owner will have you in just to try to drum up more customers. They will usually advertise your appearance. They may take a couple of books on consignment and sell them in the store. These opportunities are also usually free.
3. Check the internet for author expos. There are readers who have a passion for exposing others to books. Colleges have author expos, sometimes libraries do, some art guilds do, and sometimes other organizations such as readers’ coalitions organize them. These are generally quite inexpensive to attend and may also be free.
4. Get the word out that you’re looking for book clubs or writers’ groups. Volunteer to make an appearance and speak. Some groups pay to have speakers, and some just provide lunch or snacks and drinks. I’ve spoken to several groups that have purchased books at the end. Sales at my speaking events have been very good, and the more people, obviously, the better.
5. Town festivals. Nearly all small towns and all larger towns have downtown events. People are wandering everywhere. They may not be looking for books, but if you’re willing to strike up a conversation, you’d be surprised at how many readers there are that are impressed to meet an actual author. And other kind-hearted people simply like to support local authors. These events are also generally quite inexpensive to sell at.
6. Look up farmer’s markets and flea markets. If they aren’t advertised on line, try the local Chamber of Commerce or the City Hall for information. For somewhere between five and twenty dollars, in my experience, I set up a booth or a table under a canopy and sell a lot of books. People come to markets with cash in hand, fully expecting to spend money. Having an author in attendance is a curiosity. At a market, people are friendly. They stop and chat. They like a free piece of candy or a bookmark, and they’re all curious about the guy or gal that isn’t selling produce. If the weather cooperates, I’ve had lots of luck at the farm markets. I also tend to buy a lot of fresh veggies, so be prepared to spend some of your profits. Hey, it’s for your own health. The only flea market I sold at went pretty well; plus I learned that next time I’ll bring other things to sell too, since it turned out to be basically a huge garage sale. Maybe there’s a good flea market near you.
7. Craft shows have been very good to me. Now we’re getting to the especially good events. These, in my experience, can be very inexpensive (10 to 20 dollars) or they can be expensive (like 75 to 150 dollars). I’ve sold over 50 books at craft shows numerous times. They are usually indoors, so weather isn’t a concern, and sharing a table is always a possibility. Do you know another author to split the fee with, or a crafter that will share his or her table? That’s a way to reduce the cost. Shoppers come with money to spend, and they generally spend it. Remember, lots of people love books. Plus I have an easier time not spending my profits on crafts than not buying those delicious fresh vegetables.
8. Art in the park events are easy to find on line, and there are generally very few authors at those events, so often, they’re very profitable. They can also be expensive. I prefer sharing a booth with one of two author friends that I’ve made. Both Stacey Rourke and Julie Cassar (check out their books because they sell like hotcakes) are very outgoing and personable, and our books are different enough that we don’t invade on each other’s audiences, but when a few people stop, crowds begin to gather. Literature is art. Once shoppers realize this obvious truth, they also realize that your art is less expensive than everyone else’s. At least that’s my theory on why I’ve been so successful at these events. That and my smile and friendly personality.
I’ve come back from events and my wife will ask me how many books I sold. I’ll sigh sometimes and say, “Only fifteen” or I’ll say, “I sold twenty-eight, but I sold thirty-five last year at the same event.” She’ll say, “How many did you sell on line today?” And my spirits will brighten. Interacting with people, hearing words of encouragement, creating smiles, making connections and getting invitations to other events—these are things that happen out in public, and I believe more authors need to take the initiative to step out and market their books in a way that happens to be fun and also works. I encourage all indie authors to locate some events and make some phone calls. Get your book into the hands of some readers. You’ll wonder why you weren’t doing it before.
Jeff LaFerney is the author of Loving the Rain, Skeleton Key, Bulletproof, and Jumper. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Jeff+LaFerney
Friday, July 18, 2014
I’m an English teacher and an author, and I sometimes wonder how anyone can learn English as a second language. Throwing out the languages that require us to learn a different alphabet, is there a more difficult language than English? Take our idioms, for instance—of which there are too many to count. At the drop of a hat? Beat around the bush? Barking up the wrong tree? A chip on your shoulder? Costs an arm and a leg? Can’t cut the mustard? Hit the hay? Jump on the bandwagon? Let the cat out of the bag? Off your rocker? On the ball? Piece of cake? Put all your eggs in one basket? Steal your thunder? Straight from the horse’s mouth? Take it with a grain of salt? The whole nine yards?
But those are idioms, which are figures of speech. We know they mean something figurative, so inherently we understand there is more to the phrase than the literal meanings to the words. But how does a new English speaker discern what the words up and down could possibly mean? I looked up the words (though I didn’t bother to write down the definitions). Down had seven adverb definitions while up had ten. I don’t think it’s enough, personally.
In class, sometimes I hear myself say, “Quiet down and listen up.” I give directions and the kids are mixed up. On multiple choice questions, sometimes the answer is a toss up. I have to crack down on discipline, call down to the office, speak up to be heard, dress up for work, calm down the rowdy kids who are acting up, follow up with a phone call to parents of kids who won't shut up, jazz up the lesson, wait for kids to settle down, turn down requests, lock up the room, sweep up the floor, and build up students' confidence. I have to round up missing work, shut down my computer, scale down a lesson, simmer down when I might be getting worked up, ease up when I’m getting fed up, mix up the activities before time’s up, and avoid getting tied up in politics.
What if I had a beat-up car that was a lemon (idiom)? I mean my car could break down and need a tune up. In order to get it fixed up, a grown-up service man would have to take a close-up look and size up and pin down the problems. He would hook up his computer before he writes up an invoice that breaks down the problems with my messed-up car. He might round up some guys, jack up the car, strip down the engine, break down the carburetor, clamp down some hoses, and make up some problems that don’t exist. Since all I can do is stare down a broken engine, gas up my tank, pump up my tires, and pay up my bills, I can just hope he doesn’t cook up some unnecessary costs and shake me down to cough up some money I shouldn’t have to spend.
What if I was trying to shape up at the gym with a personal trainer? He might tell me to man up and pick up the pace. He might try to wear me down to break down muscles. For me, he might have to scale down a workout he worked up or maybe he’ll ease up on me and back down when I feel like throwing up. Maybe he’ll crack down on me for eating up all the household chocolate. Maybe two trainers could gang up on me and stare me down until I can measure up. Maybe they’ll follow up by telling me to suck it up until I cramp up and need a rub down. When it’s all over, I can settle down, cheer up, strip down, shower up, mop up the floor after I’ve washed up, dress up in my pajamas, turn down the sheets, and wind down by opening up a book to catch up on my favorite characters. I can settle down until it’s time to shut down the lights, which is hands down the best part of the day.
Okay, so we use the words for uncountable reasons, which is difficult enough to understand, but we use up and down with the SAME words. How confusing is that? We touch down an airplane and touch up paint. We settle down emotionally and settle up a bet. We turn down an offer and turn up the pressure. We pay down the loan and pay up on a bill. We write down a blog post, and when we’re done, we have a write up. We crack down on criminals and crack up laughing. We bring down the mafia and bring up a problem. We wash down the dog, and when we’re done, he’s been washed up. We talk down a jumper and talk up our foolish ideas. We screw down a screw and screw up the project. We can drive down or drive up a road, mop down a floor or mop it up, be told to slow down or slow up, be tied down or tied up, soap down and soap up, lock down and lock up, pin down or pin up, and back down or back up. After a beat down, we’re beat up; or after a throw down, we can throw up. We can shoot down an idea and shoot up drugs. We can knock down a wall and knock up our wives. We can take down an empire and take up knitting. We brush down a horse, and when we’re done, it’s brushed up. We can break down an idea and break up with our girlfriend. Is it time to close down or close up?
It all seems so confusing to me with so many meanings for two such simple words. I was thinking, if you enjoyed my mental melt down, maybe you could print up my blog, pick it up from the printer, hold it up or hang it up or stick it up on the refrigerator or pin it up on the wall. Or turn down my suggestion and wad it up or tear it up. By now, you probably don’t know if you’re coming down or going up, yet more than 15% of the words used in this mixed-up article are up and down. Do we as English speakers really know what those two little words mean?
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
As people who follow my blog, my author page https://www.facebook.com/authorJeffLaFerney?ref=hl, or my Sports, Movies, Books, and Music Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/sportsmoviesbooksandmusic?ref=hl know, I’m an English teacher, an author, and a former athlete and coach. My blog topics range all over the place, but right now my mind is on soccer. It’s World Cup Soccer season, and I’m not a soccer fan. I know, lots of people are, so my intent isn’t to offend soccer fans with this blog. It’s to tell why I don’t like it personally. It’s simply my opinions and perceptions, shared with anyone who is willing to read them. Because I’m being bombarded with soccer images, “highlights,” etc., I decided to tell my four biggest pet peeves about soccer. I’ll get right to it.
Pet peeve number one is simple. I know it’s a generalization…I know it’s a stereotype…but soccer fans around the world seem to me to be dangerously crazy—deranged to the point of absurd violence. Here in America, we have loads of different sports to watch. We get so much sports coverage that we’re bombarded with images, but there is rarely a violent incident at a game. We rarely see riots, stampedes, murders, and other senseless violence at our sporting events, and we have far more events than other countries. My first problem with soccer is the perception that its fans are overly zealous to the point of demented recklessness. I typed in a Google search for “soccer riot images” and there were literally thousands of them—police in riot gear, stadiums on fire, people being carried out on stretchers, stampeding fans plowing over innocent spectators, tear gas, armed police beating fans with sticks, blood. I typed in “American football riot images,” and the same soccer images came up. There wasn’t one with American football players that I noticed. To me, if my life is in danger when I go to a game, there is a problem with the atmosphere of the “game.” I don’t think an entertainment sport should be a life or death event.
Pet peeve number two becomes more personal. The game is such that there is very little scoring. I can respect that the pro soccer players are fantastically talented, but when Sports Center only has to take fifteen seconds of its thirty minute program to show virtually all of the professional goals scored from the previous day—all over the world, I think—to me it demonstrates an adequate reason to not like the sport. And when the majority of goals are scored directly from corner kicks, free kicks, and penalty kicks, I have to wonder what all the other running around for ninety minutes is all about. On a field that’s approximately two acres big, with gifted players, and with a goal that’s eight feet high and 24 feet long (a hockey goal is four feet by six feet), no one seems to be able to get the ball in. You need evidence? I Googled the average score of a soccer game. I don’t know if I got the “right” answer, but the “best” answer given was the winning team averages 1.63 goals and the losing team averages .54 goals—2.17 goals a game. You need more evidence? In any other sport, does the announcer yell, “Gooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllllllllllll!!!!!” for thirty seconds or more when one is finally scored? Goals are so rare, that announcers practically hemorrhage when they see one.
Pet peeve number three has to do with stoppage time. For some reason, the clock doesn’t stop in a soccer game, but a referee is allowed to determine how much extra time is to be played at the end of each half. How does he decide? “The most common reasons include time taken to make substitutions, the treatment of injured players, and deliberate acts of time-wasting by individual players. The referee decides how much stoppage time, if any, should be added at the end of either period.” I guess it’s random—some sort of judgment call one man makes based on what? How much energy he still has? And the irritating thing is….it used to be a secret. No one knew how much stoppage time was granted, let alone how the referee decided upon it. And the time wasn’t put up on the scoreboard for anyone to see. And zero on the clock wasn’t and still isn’t the end of the game. They can play on if the referee thinks they’re making adequate progress toward a scoring attempt. Can you imagine a referee in an American professional football game (the NFL) keeping a secret clock that only he knew about, and then at the end of the game, the players played on without knowing how much time was left? So Payton Manning would line up at center from the ten-yard-line, down three points, and while directing traffic for thirty seconds and while changing the play three times and while giving seventeen hand signals and while shouting out “Omaha” twice, the referee could blow the whistle and say, “The game is over. I just decided. We’ve had enough stoppage time. You made two hand signals too many and don’t seem to be making progress toward the goal line. New England wins!” My son has informed me that stoppage time is now displayed on the scoreboard, and that I would have known if I ever watched any games. Someone—probably someone who didn’t like soccer—convinced the rest of the knuckleheads that displaying the time should be a normal and acceptable practice in the world’s most popular game. But why don’t they just stop the clock when it’s deemed necessary? The ref could just blow a whistle and make a hand signal. And then when the clock hits 0:00, he could blow his whistle again, and the period could be over like in other sports that actually have scoring as part of the competition.
My fourth pet peeve makes all the others pale in comparison. I hate, hate, hate that soccer players flop and act like they’re dead. This happens all the time in an attempt, I suppose, to persuade the lone referee who can make a call that something horribly awful just happened. This is either cheating, in an attempt to draw out a yellow or red card for the opposition…or it’s cheating, in an attempt to give the cheater’s team some sort of free kick so they might attempt to score the only goal they can possibly score…or it’s cheating so the player can rest. After all, there will be stoppage time later when he might not be so exhausted. Everyone knows this is happening, and any true football, hockey, basketball, boxing, wrestling, X-games, or baseball fan (whatever American sport whatsoever) is irritated by the absurd fakery. Let me give two examples from this year’s World Cup. First, U.S. offensive star, Jozy Altidore, suffered a life-threatening hamstring pull—apparently. He was running, pulled a hamstring, grabbed his leg, fell on his back, and nearly died—I guess. He never moved. Too much pain, certainly. He lay on his back like he’d suffered a heart attack. He never tried to sit up, roll over, or stand on his good leg. A hockey player could have had his leg ripped off, and he would have continued playing. Jozy? He needed a stretcher. Six men tried to lift him and failed. Jozy didn’t help whatsoever. They had to tip the stretcher sideways and slide him in because Jozy was too injured from a pulled leg muscle to move any part of his body. Now, I’ll give him credit. Unlike other stretcher injuries I’ve seen in soccer, he didn’t get to the sideline, bounce off the stretcher and run back into the game, but days later, I saw him jogging with his team. Here’s video evidence of the horrendous injury and stretcher humor.
The other example is Luis Suarez’s biting incident. I’ll show you some pictures, but I have to hand it to Luis. He has quite a set of choppers. He’s been gifted with an incredible set of teeth, so I can understand the need to use his gift. His nickname is Dracula…and The Cannibal…and Chewy Luis. So he ran down the field and chomped into his opponent’s shoulder. The victim, Giorgio Chiellini, was in such agony that his legs discontinued working, and he fell to the ground like he was shot in the head or possibly hit by a truck. I watched Mike Tyson literally bite part of Evander Holyfield’s ear right off. Holyfield stayed on his feet. A soccer player would have had to be hooked to emergency IV’s and transported by helicopter to a nearby hospital. Amazingly Chewy Luis also fell straight to the ground in an attempt to persuade the referee, I assume, that he was illegally shouldered in the teeth, rendering him temporarily lame. When poor Chiellini finally managed to stand again, he was able to run all over the field (I guess he wasn’t hurt so badly after all), showing the bite marks. The skin wasn’t even broken. No blood. Just a mark.
I’ve seen hockey players take a stick across the face—broken nose, blood dripping—and keep playing. Football players have collisions that could kill someone, and they get up and play on. They don’t run around the field showing off their bruise (generating who knows how much stoppage time). Can you imagine a catcher, after taking a 100 MPH foul tip off the shoulder, being sympathetic to the soccer player with bite marks? Can you imagine a professional basketball player who just took an elbow to the teeth being sympathetic to the Cannibal who was rolling around the ground, holding his fangs because he bit his opponent too hard? Can you imagine anyone besides LeBron James or Paul Pierce getting carried or wheeled off the court and then heading straight for the scorer’s table again to re-enter the game?
Honestly, I have my reasons for not liking soccer. If you’re a fan, you’re not alone, but I’ll watch almost any other sport before I’ll watch soccer.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
I was invited to participate in Project Pushover. At least that’s what I’m calling it. It’s a blog share venture that one of my favorite authors convinced me to do because, well, I’m a pushover. She has two awesome books and an always entertaining blog called “The Glitter Globe.” http://www.theglitterglobe.com/ We’re hoping that sharing ideas on the writing process serves to both inspire us and make us not feel so weird because yes, we're weird. S.R. Karfelt, the “Project” manager and author of the Warriors of the Ages series, writes action/adventure with a twist of fantasy. Check her out because her books are riveting.
Last week S.R. published her blog and introduced three authors. One of them was me. Today it’s my turn to use “The Red Pen” to write about my books for the very first time and to introduce you to four other authors whose terrific novels I’ve read and whose friendships I value. We all have our own way of writing. It’s like getting ready for work in the morning. Everyone has a different routine, but the end result is simply marvelous—at least for my author friends, I’m sure it is. Today I'm going to answer four questions about my own writing, and a week from now, my featured authors will do the same on their blogs. I'm going to give you the links, but will that mean you'll just scroll down to them and ignore what I have to say? Before I lose you to the gifted authors, here are four questions for which you must be dying to know the answers.
What am I, Jeff LaFerney, working on? My latest book, Jumper, has been my best-seller. It’s a time-travel adventure, and though I was excited about writing it, it was difficult to write. I was planning on continuing the series with a completely different set of characters, but sales and reviews have led me to change everything I was planning, and because of it, I’m not making much progress. I still write for “The Red Pen,” I’ve done some planning for a YA mystery (which will probably be my next completed project), and I have a start on the next book in my Clay and Tanner Thomas mystery series.
How does my work differ from others of its genre? The Clay and Tanner series has a father and son “amateur detective” combination. I think that’s unique in and of itself. What makes them especially unique is that they share parapsychological abilities. It’s not science-fiction, though. They are regular guys. Tanner is a college basketball player. Clay is a professor and a coach. They have to deal with the morality of their powers as well as struggle with relationships. They obtain clues in unusual ways, but they solve the mysteries like detectives. The time-travel book is more of an adventure. It involves some spiritual warfare between angels and demons and includes miracles bestowed by the Staff of Moses. The hero is a motorcycle-riding, tough-guy loner with a heart of gold. I think they’re all entertaining and filled with unexpected twists and turns.
Why do I write what I do? First of all, I love mystery and humor. I also love characters who have real problems but overcome them while putting others before themselves. My stories are appropriate for readers of all ages, and I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I’ve written clean stories that appeal to all kinds of readers. I try to incorporate life lessons while simply entertaining my readers, but I don’t like to be predictable, so my stories generally are surprising too. I think I write what I do because I write what I like…what I believe in…what I think keeps the pages turning, and so far it’s worked pretty well for me.
How does my writing process work? I’ve written four novels and the process was different every time, but there are a few things that I’ve done pretty consistently. One is I research everything. I get even the littlest details (what birds are still around in the fall in Michigan, what the signs say at the tourist attractions on Mt. Nebo, how a patient is put under during a brain surgery, what the traditions say the ghosts at the Fenton Hotel behave like). Another is I keep time lines. I find time is tricky in novels, especially time-travel novels, and timelines keep me from making mistakes. I also revise as I’m writing, so I keep notes of each scene and the characters involved so I can easily find the scenes when I make plot changes. Some people can’t revise while writing, but it works for me. I even make edits for punctuation and grammar as I go along, but that’s the English teacher in me. Then I find really good beta readers and I ask them to content edit. I’m not afraid of constructive criticism. I edit professionally, so once the readers are done (7 or 8 of them), I re-read the book several more times making minor adjustments. My goal is always to have a completed version with no errors.
Finally, it’s time to introduce my talented author friends. First in the writers hall of fame is Shyla Lukens. Her first book is a YA fantasy/mystery/romance. Her Jessie Billows romance/mystery kept me guessing (and laughing) throughout. You’ll become a fan as soon as you crack one of her books. Check out her blog at http://www.authorshylalukens.com/blog-to-me and her books at http://www.amazon.com/Shyla-Lukens/e/B00INYF9II/ref=sr_tc_2_rm?qid=1401225660&sr=1-2-ent
Shyla Lukens worked as a paralegal in a local law firm until opting to become a stay at home mom to her five energetic angels. She is a full time writer whose passion for the art of creating stems from her belief that if you dream it and have a passion for it, it will happen. Shyla’s first novel, Enraptured, a YA fantasy mixed with mystery and romance, was published in 2012. Just Paying the Rent, a chick lit romance novel was released this year. She has two more books being released this summer including Day Moon, a YA fantasy, and the second book in the Jessie Billows series. Shyla lives in Dubuque, Iowa.
A.J. Lape is the awesome author of the fantastic Darcy Walker Series. Shall I throw in a few other superlatives? Darcy is a nut who will keep you on the edge of your seat laughing or wondering how she’ll ever survive. A.J. is a hardworking author whose books keep you on constant entertainment alert. Check out her webpage at http://ajlape.com/ and her books at http://www.amazon.com/A.-J.-Lape/e/B00A4N8M8A/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1401226231&sr=1-2-ent
AJ Lape is the Amazon bestselling author of the Darcy Walker Series. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, two daughters, an ADD dog, a spoiled hamster, and an unapologetic and unrepentant addiction to Coca-Cola--and a lifelong love affair with bacon. If the FBI ever checks her computer, she'll be wearing prison orange due to the various "wiki" articles she looks up. She swears the dead body, mob, and drug related stuff is only career research.
Laura Vosika is the extraordinarily talented writer of the Blue Bells Chronicles trilogy. Her best-selling books are set in Scotland and are time-travel treasures. The research is amazing and the suspense will keep you turning the pages. Check out her blog at http://bluebellstrilogy.blogspot.com/ and her books at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Laura+Vosika
Laura Vosika is the author of The Blue Bells Chronicles. She has spent many years as a freelance musician on trombone, flute, and harp, and as a private music instructor and band director. She is the mother of nine children, currently living in the Twin Cities.
The last inductee to the writer’s hall of fame is Eliott McKay. Eliott is a gifted writer who has a poetic way with words that grabs a reader and won’t let go. Her YA fantasy Midnight Engagement is beautifully written and her second novel, which is fantastic, awaits a publisher. Her blog is inspiring, so check it out here: http://www.eliottmckay.com/ while her book can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Eliott-McKay/e/B00AY8VQ74/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1401227561&sr=1-2-ent
Eliott McKay has a great love of learning, enjoys spending time with friends and family, and travels light, viewing excess as a burden. She comes from a large family, holds the reigning title of favorite aunt to several nieces and nephews, and sees value in every person she meets. Adventure finds her wherever she goes, particularly in the books she reads and writes, and her self-acclaimed mission in life is to "Spread joy everywhere!"
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Come with me to the land of instruction. It’s a lonely place—sometimes quite boring. However, I happen to know the rules for when to use me and when to use I. It has to do with subjects and objects. I’m not talking about subjects like peasants in a kingdom or objects like things on a shelf. I happen to be talking lonely, boring grammar, but give me a chance. I might be able to straighten out the confusion of my blog readers without bewildering you or causing you to nod off in a stupor.
Here is the first order of educating the confused. I is always a subject and me is always an object. What does that mean? Well, I’ll start with subjects. Find an action verb in your sentence and ask who or what did the action. The answer will be the subject. “Laura snorted pop out of her nose” (that would be “soda” for almost everyone in the world outside of Michigan). Snorted is the action. Who snorted? Laura. Laura is the subject. If I inserted the pronoun I in place of Laura, I would be the subject, which leads to the question of which would burn my nose the most when snorted, Vernors or Coke? (Vernors is a “pop” that people in Michigan recognize.) If Laura and I both snorted, both Laura and I are what is called a compound subject. Me cannot be a subject, so saying Laura and me snorted or saying Me and Laura snorted is bad grammar. Verbs aren’t always action words, however, so sometimes you’ll have to locate a linking verb—a verb that simply shows a state of being. Am, is, are, was, were, has, have, had, be, or been are quite common. If a sentence said…“Bradley looks like a hairy-eared Hobbit,” looks is a linking verb. There is no action. “Hairy-eared” is just what Bradley is like. It is how he is. It is also how Bilbo and Frodo Baggins are as well, but that is obvious, and this is an amazing set of sentences that have absolutely no action, moving you into that boring grammar zone. Now, I could say I look like a hairy-eared Hobbit, but that would be unlikely because I have a phobia of hair in my ears—just ask my wife. If you asked who or what looks, the answer would be the subject. In a compound construction, Bradley and I both must have unseemly hair growing in our ears. I can’t use me as the subject because me is never a subject.
I was in a store, shopping, and a boy pleaded with his mother. “Will you come with Jimmy and me to the toy department?” I was thinking that I’d go if she wasn’t willing, but she chose not to answer his question. Instead, she determined that it was the appropriate time to give a grammar lesson to her cute little guys. “Jimmy and I,” she said. Though I wanted to tell the lady that her son knew grammar better than she did, I refrained. Instead, I headed for the toy department myself, and low and behold, the boys dragged their mother there as well. I was looking at action figures, the boys were looking at Nerf guns, and the mom was looking at balls. The smart grammar kid said, “Mom, throw Jimmy and me a ball.” Instead of tossing the projectiles, mom decided to teach grammar again. “It’s Jimmy and I,” she said. The grammar kid was now up two on his mommy because in each case, he used me as an object. I cannot be an object.
“Just between You and Me” is a song made famous by April Wine. The band got it right—which is quite unusual I have to admit when analyzing the song lyrics of the majority of music groups—because me is an object in the phrase. There are three kinds of objects in sentences: objects of prepositions, direct objects, and indirect objects. I’ll start with objects of prepositions. Those little words that usually show direction or location, showing the relationship between two people or things in a sentence are prepositions. In, on, at, of, for, with, by, near, between, beside, above, and others are prepositions. They all use objects. “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go” uses river, woods, and house as objects. So now it’s time for a learning example.
“Did you talk to Boog and me at the urinal in the men’s room?” The answer to that question is no because that breaks all standards of protocol in restrooms for males with a sense of decency; however, sometimes we (um…I) forget our (my) roles. Yes, I happened to see Boog Powell, the former major league baseball player (and at the time, current Miller Light beer commercial star), sitting in a first-class seat on an airplane, and I followed him into the airport restroom to “chat” with him. I said, “Are you Boog Powell?” He was busily peeing and staring at the wall as is appropriate while I was two urinals down, being a complete idiot. “Umm hmmm,” he said. Well, that was a better-than-expected response. “I saw you on the plane and was pretty sure it was you,” I continued as he stared at the wall. “Umm hmmm,” he said. He finished, zipped up, and walked out. What was I to do? Shake his hand? Anyway, back to teaching. To is a preposition. Boog and me are objects of the preposition. I cannot be an object, so Boog and I would be incorrect. You know, if you dropped out Boog and, the sentence would say, “Did you talk to me at the urinal.” To I would be a horrible gaffe, wouldn’t it?
On to direct and indirect objects. Here’s another sample sentence. “Did you hear Mike and me singing in the rowboat?” I have to interject. You see, my friend, Mike T., and I were at a lake party in our late teens or early twenties, and we were sitting and rowing in a rowboat we had mostly submerged, singing out, “Roxeanne! You don’t have to put on the red light! Roxeanne! You don’t have to put on the red light!” Why that particular song? I don’t know except that we managed to wail out the lyrics at about the same sound quality as Sting himself. Anyway, hear is a transitive verb. If I say the verb hear and ask “hear what?” the answer is “singing.” Singing is the direct object. I can then say “singing to or by whom?” and the answer is “Mike and me.” Mike and me are the indirect objects. I cannot be an object so it doesn’t work in that sentence. If I said “My readers don’t like me,” me is the direct object. I wouldn’t say “My readers don’t like I.” I also wouldn’t say “My readers don’t like Mike and I.” I cannot be an object.
This problem with me and I really only occurs in a compound construction when there are two subjects or two objects. When it happens, just drop off the other subject or object and say the sentence with just the word me or I and you’ll know what sounds right. By the way, just as saying “with me” or “near me” or “beside me,” you would say “between me.” So saying “This is just between you and I” is wrong. Or saying “He’ll stand with you and I at the Funny Farm” is wrong. The grammar mom in the store? She was dead wrong. The rock band, April Wine? They were dead right, believe it or not. So if you’re still awake and didn’t mind my wild thought tangents, you now know how to tell the difference. Wasn’t it well worth your time?
Saturday, May 3, 2014
I’m a baseball fan, and I’m fed up with all the “cheating” accusations concerning steroids. I’d like to put a little different spin on the steroid era, especially as it concerns the Hall of Fame eligible players who apparently aren’t going to get in—especially concerning Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. I know, I mentioned steroids and lost half my readers and then I mentioned how I support Clemens and Bonds and lost half of the rest, but at least some of you are sticking around to see if I have an original thought or two.
Let me start out by saying that Clemens has never admitted to the use of performance enhancing drugs, and Bonds has stuck to his guns about his ignorance of his own usage. Neither was found guilty in the trials they were forced to endure, which should cast some doubts for the haters, but regardless, I don’t care about Bonds’s and Clemens’s situations. I personally don’t care if they used them or not. I also need to say quite plainly that I’m no expert on the steroid era. I’m not even an expert on the two players in consideration. I’m just a fan who is using his blog to try to sound logical. My goal isn’t to convince you of anything, and it has nothing to do with the negative medical effects that steroids have on the body. It is simply to make some logical points about Clemens, Bonds, and the steroid era.
Point number one: Clemens and Bonds were superstars. With or without performance enhancing drugs, they were unquestionably two of the best players in the game. Bonds’s great statistics were even greater while he was using his creams and such, there is no doubt, but with Clemens, I can’t tell when he supposedly used the stuff. All I know is that if any Hall of Fame voter looked at Bonds’s and Clemens’s career stats, they should be compelled to vote those two in.
Point number two: Let me define “cheating.” One definition is “a deception for profit to yourself” and another is “violating accepted standards or rules.” Back in 1998, I watched a television interview with Mark McGwire who had a bottle of Androstenedione displayed visibly on his locker shelf. "Everything I've done is natural,” he said in a later interview. “Everybody that I know in the game of baseball uses the same stuff I use," said McGwire, who also took the popular muscle-builder Creatine, an amino acid powder. Well, if the game of baseball had no rules against it and players weren’t deceptively sneaking it into the locker room or training room, why is it called cheating? If a hockey goalie wears pads larger than the rules allow or a race car driver’s roof is too low or quarter panels are too high to make his car go faster or a golfer puts too many clubs in his bag, that is cheating. Or if Gaylord Perry, who is in the Hall of Fame, puts foreign substances on the ball, substances clearly stated as being against the rules, that is cheating. If a player uses a substance that isn’t against the rules and it’s being used by the majority of others, why is it called cheating? That leads me to…
Point number three: Star professional athletes are very proud. They have big egos. They’re usually the best not just because they have great skills but also because they work harder than everyone else. They want to be the highest paid, not because they need the money, but because they are the best. Well, when an entire league starts bulking up on steroids and growth hormones and such, and players start breaking records and winning Silver Sluggers and other awards and getting commercial deals, it makes sense that the best players wouldn’t be satisfied to fall behind. My point isn’t that Bonds and Clemens used performance enhancers, however. My point is that I don’t understand why people look to those two as their punching bags when all evidence and logic suggests that they would have been in the minority if they weren’t doing it too.
Point number four: Let’s say there is a star pitcher and he hears that half or more of the pitchers in the league are using performance enhancers and half or more of the hitters are too. I would think that the star pitcher would consider using the same things, partly to keep up with the pitchers he’s being compared to and partly to keep up with the hitters who are getting bigger and stronger. And let’s say there is a star hitter and all of a sudden his job is in jeopardy or his records are falling or his position among the top players is disappearing and he learns that not only are the majority of hitters getting a competitive advantage but he has to face pitchers who are using performance enhancers too. I would think the hitter would consider doing the same thing. Here’s my point. Why are people upset with Roger Clemens for trying to get Barry Bonds out? And why are people so upset with Barry Bonds for trying to get the most out of his at bats against Clemens? Who, pray tell, has the competitive advantage if they are both using the same thing?
Point number five: This may be my weakest argument, but does anyone think that using steroids or other performance enhancing drugs will help a hitter hit a baseball or throw more strikes? Ted Williams said the hardest thing in sports is to hit a baseball. This was before pitchers all threw fastballs in the 90’s, never had to complete a game, and relievers came in to face a single batter. Carl Yaztrzemski said this about Williams. “I'm sure not one of them [the baseball greats] could hold cards and spades to Williams in his sheer knowledge of hitting. He studied hitting the way a broker studies the stock market, and could spot at a glance mistakes that others couldn't see in a week." This is what Bonds was like. He worked hard. He studied hard. He faced pitchers on steroids who recovered faster and threw harder and were inserted into the lineup just to face him. This is what Clemens was like. He’s famous for his work ethic and intelligence. He faced juiced up hitters who hit the ball farther and harder than ever before and who weren’t dealing so heavily with the aches and pains of umpteen days straight of baseball games. Clemens and Bonds accomplished what they did in an age that they did it, however, not because they were cheating; it was because they were the best in their era. It was because they were great.
Point number six: Quite honestly, I haven’t spent hours of research on this topic, but I’ve done some. I keep reading that “everybody” was using performance enhancers or “most” were doing it or “estimates are that more than half” were using PED’s. I keep reading that as many pitchers as hitters were using them, which has proven to be pretty close to true when names are released. I also am not so naïve as to think that managers, trainers, coaches, GM’s, owners, and the commissioner didn’t know what was going on, choosing to turn their heads because the game’s popularity was skyrocketing. So in an era when many of the best players in the game probably used some sort of performance enhancers just like most of their peers—with the knowledge of the powers that be—insuring that they remained the best players in baseball, we still have a bunch of hypocritical sportswriters who have determined to keep everyone out of the Hall of Fame who produced during the steroid era. Yes, I said hypocritical sportswriters, leading to my last point.
My last point: If on the streets, sportswriters discovered an energy drink that made them more productive, many of them would use it. If it became apparent that the writers using the energy drink were getting more advancements, higher salaries, and more fame, I’d guess that eventually more would use it than not, especially if there were no office rules against consuming the drinks. It wouldn’t be cheating; it would be keeping up with their peers. Many of these sportswriters will refuse to ever vote for Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds or any other productive player from the “steroid era,” yet they will cheat at cards to win a meaningless game or they cheated in school to get a meaningless grade or they ingested something to keep them awake and alert when traveling and schedules were wearing them down so they could perform their jobs to their boss’s expectations. Imperfect people are judging athletes who weren’t breaking the rules and who were doing what the majority of their peers were doing—and the leaders in their sport were condoning. It’s time to give up on this holier-than-thou attitude and vote the best players of their era into the Hall of Fame. Bonds and Clemens deserve a place there, and so do many others.
Monday, April 7, 2014
People say dumb things. I know I certainly do. But who am I? A guy with a blog…with a handful of books read by a handful of people? Not many people care when I say something stupid. But what if I was a famous athlete? Then people would take notice, and there would be a list of my dumbest quotes followed by an unknown author’s sarcastic comments (in italics). But I’m not a famous athlete like Yogi Berra, Rickey Henderson, and Mike Tyson. Instead I get to be the sarcastic blogger/author. Yogi Berra is famous for his less-than-cerebral quotes. Rickey Henderson is famous for his cockiness and third person references to go with an occasional mental gaffe. Mike Tyson is just lost Mike, trying to sound smarter than he really is. I’m giving you some of my favorites. Read and enjoy.
Yogi Berra quotes
1. "A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore." (But a tax dollar is.)
2. "Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical." (And the other third is hysterical.)
3. "He hits from both sides of the plate. He's amphibious." (I think he was talking about Toad the Wet Sprocket.)
4. "I always thought that record would stand until it was broken." (Yogi got one right occasionally.)
5. "I'm not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did." (Five miles uphill, both ways, barefoot in the snow, against the wind.)
6. "It's like deja vu all over again." (I swear I’ve read that line before…again.)
7. "The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase." (Maybe if you took out the bathrobe, Yogi.)
8. "You can observe a lot just by watching." (Along those same lines of thinking, you can lie a lot just by fishing.)
9. "You should always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't come to yours." (And what would a funeral be without ghosts and zombies present?)
10. "I never said most of the things I said." (I have to admit, it IS hard to believe you said some of these things.)
Rickey Henderson quotes
1. In 1996, Henderson’s first season with San Diego, he boarded the team bus and was looking for a seat. Steve Finley said, “You have tenure, sit wherever you want.” Henderson looked at Finley and said, “Ten years? Ricky’s been playing at least 16, 17 years.” (Rickey was famous for talking to himself and referring to himself in the third person.)
2. A reporter once asked Rickey if he talked to himself, “Do I talk to myself? No, I just remind myself of what I’m trying to do. You know, I never answer myself so how can I be talking to myself?”
3. After a Seattle strikeout, the next batter heard him say as he returned to the dugout, "Don't worry, Rickey, you're still the best." (Since there’s no record of a self-response, he therefore wasn’t talking to himself.)
4. A reporter asked Henderson if Ken Caminiti’s estimate that 50 percent of Major League players were taking steroids was accurate. His response was, “Well, Rickey’s not one of them, so that’s 49 percent right there.” (Since Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were taking them, does that make it 51%?)
5. Rickey once asked a teammate how long it would take him to drive to the Dominican Republic. (I think it would take less time than if he were to drive to…say…Japan.)
6. In the late 1980s, the Yankees sent Henderson a six-figure bonus check. After a few months passed, an internal audit revealed the check had not been cashed. Current Yankees GM Brian Cashman called Rickey and asked if there was a problem with the check. Henderson said, “I’m just waiting for the money market rates to go up.” (At least he intended to cash it eventually. I’m curious about the million dollar bonus check that I read he framed and hung on his wall.)
7. When he was on the Yankees in the mid-1980s, Henderson told teammates that his condo had such a great view that he could see, “The Entire State Building.” (Even the back?)
8. Advice from Rickey: "Do your stretching before you sleep. That way you wake up loose." (Rickey never once pulled a hamstring in his sleep.)
9. Insight from Rickey: “In baseball you train the whole body, except for the hip and eyes.” (And the brain and tongue.)
Mike Tyson quotes
1. “Another thing that freaks me out is time. Time is like a book. You have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It's just a cycle.” (The ever-repeating cycle of a timeline…and books?)
2. “I ain't the same person I was when I bit that guy's ear off.” (Possibly he’s a vegan instead of a cannibal?)
3. “It's good to know how to read, but it's dangerous to know how to read and not how to interpret what you're reading.” (Two signs I’ve seen that he would be wise to interpret are 1) Danger. Do not hold the wrong end of a chainsaw, and 2) Warning. No trespassing. Violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot again.)
4. “I know how hard it is to be a woman, especially a black woman.” (This might partly explain his voice.)
5. “I've lived places these guys can't defecate in.” (He’s lived nowhere?)
6. “[He] called me a ‘rapist’ and a ‘recluse.’ I’m not a recluse.” (At least he’s honest.)
7. “Being a champion opens lots of doors. I’d like to get a real estate license, maybe sell insurance.” (I’ve heard with a real estate license you can also teach elementary school and go into nursing.)
8. “I guess I’m going to fade into Bolivian.” (A person can get quality soy, coffee, and coca beans in Bolivian).
If you enjoyed this installment of “The Red Pen,” check out some of my other entries or look up my novels Loving the Rain, Skeleton Key, Bulletproof, and Jumper.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
It’s that time of year once again. It’s the NCAA tournament, which means it’s time for Cinderella stories to worm their way into our consciousness. References pop up everywhere…about as often as The Princess Bride quotes.
But are you really familiar with the Cinderella story? As Inigo Montoya would say, “Let me ’splain.” A young girl’s mother dies and her father re-marries and then disappears from her life while the step-mom and step-sisters treat her miserably. When she becomes an adult, she continues to unhappily serve the other lady-folks in the family. She’s miserable and weak. She has no backbone and doesn’t stand up for herself let alone strike out on her own to achieve her own goals and dreams. A rich prince invites everyone to “the big dance,” but Cinderella doesn’t go because her evil step-mom forbids it, and she can’t figure out a way to get there on her own. Then lo and behold a fairy shows up and gives her everything she needs to attend. Cinderella doesn’t do a thing to earn it, except to possibly go snag a pumpkin (she’s good at doing menial tasks). Once there, a dumb prince falls for her immediately, and when Cinderella flees, leaving a glass slipper, the apparently-drunken prince assumes that there’s only one foot in the entire kingdom that it’ll fit. He doesn’t recognize Cinderella because she’s back to being a spineless wimp, but the shoe fits, and he whisks her away to a happily-ever-after.
After considering the lovely Disney tale, I have a hard time understanding why the NCAA basketball tournament has so many teams described as “Cinderella stories.” As Miracle Max would say, “I’m not listening.” Mercer ended the season with a 27-9 record…14-4 in their conference to end up in first place, and they won the Atlantic Sun Tournament. Then they went on to beat the #3 seed, Duke. Harvard was 27-5…13-1 in their conference to end up in first place, and they won the Ivy League Tournament championship before defeating the #5 seeded University of Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament. Stephen F. Austin was 32-3…18-0 in their conference to end up in first place, and they won the Southland Conference championship before going on to beat the #5 seeded Virginia Commonwealth in the tournament. None of those teams was miserable and weak. They won championships. They had backbone. They stood up proudly and met their goals and dreams. They earned their way into the NCAA Tournament. There were no spineless wimps in the bunch. They worked hard. They played with confidence. No one gave them anything; they went out and earned their trip to the “The Big Dance.” They weren’t Cinderella stories. They were Ugly Duckling stories.
As the man in black would say, “Truly you [I] have a dizzying intellect.” Are you familiar with the Ugly Duckling story? As Inigo Montoya would say, “There is too much. Let me sum up.” Some eggs hatch and out come some birds, all of which think they are ducks…one of which doesn’t look much like a duck. He’s criticized. He’s looked down upon. Everyone disregards him, and he’s left to fight it out on his own. And fight he does. He survives an entire winter, emerging bigger and stronger than when he started. When he looks into his reflection in the spring, the Ugly Duckling is actually a beautiful swan. It’s March Madness! He’s in a pond with all the other swans, participating in the big swan dance on the water. He’s overcome the critics. He belongs with the other swans, regardless of the naysayers, because he was a swan just like them, and because he persevered through the long winter.
When those teams from small conferences made the NCAA tournament, no fairy godmother showed up and gave them a spot they didn’t deserve. No magic spell gave them something they didn’t have already. No weak, spineless players lacking dreams and ambitions to pursue them walked out on the floor. Players from teams like Mercer and Harvard and Stephen F. Austin did what they’d been doing the entire season. Regardless of how people all over the nation viewed them as Ugly Ducklings with no chance to win, they played together, winning another game in a long list of games won. They aren’t Cinderella stories because they earned their trip to the big dance. They fought for their goals, and they achieved another victory in a season full of victories—a season marked by championships. When Inigo Montoya was in his swordfight with the man in black, he asked, “Who are you?” The man in black responded, “No one of consequence. Get used to disappointment.” Inigo was good, but on that day, the man in black was better, and Inigo was left disappointed just like Duke, Cincinnati, and VCU.
Cinderella didn’t earn anything. She was given something she did nothing to work for. It was the Ugly Duckling that was scoffed at and looked down upon who wouldn’t quit and emerged victorious. So as Count Rugen would say about your Cinderella comparisons, “Stop saying that!” Mercer and Harvard and Stephen F. Austin aren’t Cinderella stories. Save your Cinderella comparisons for those without strength of character and who are given something that they didn’t earn, and give the Ugly Duckling teams their due.
Before I close, don’t you think I’d “make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts”?